How NOT To Hire A Freelancer

By Posted on 4 min read 986 views

I’ve spent over $100,000 on freelancers and a lot of that has been on graphic designers. Not only that, but I’ve also worked as a designer, both freelance and employed, myself.

So, you can imagine my annoyance when I fell into one of the biggest mistakes of hiring a graphic designer. It’s a mistake that’s added nearly two months to my development schedule of one piece of software and about 2 weeks to the development of a new WordPress plugin.

But it’s not them that I’m particularly annoyed with. It’s myself for hiring them!

There are a number of things that a freelancer must have, but the primary three are…

  • The skills to complete the job to the level required
  • Good communication
  • The time available to do the job

It’s the last one on the list that I’m going to talk about today. If you’ve ever been a freelancer then you’ll relate to what I’m about to say, if you haven’t then I can assure you that every single freelancer experiences this until they’re at the very top of their industry.

What every freelancer experiences is that…

Work comes in patches.

There will be times when you have absolutely no work at all and are wondering if you’re going to make enough money to cover your rent, and there’ll be times when you have so much work that you’ll be struggling to do it all.

That’s all fine, that’s how it goes. The problem is that a lot of freelancers don’t recognise when they’ve got more work than they can cope with.

When you take on a job as a freelancer you have to:

  • Determine what the client wants that they haven’t put in the brief
  • Estimate how long it will take to complete
  • Estimate how much time you’ll need to spend with the client to keep them happy
  • Estimate how much communication the client will need

Again it’s the last on that list which is the big sticking point for me. I can cope with delays, I can overcome problems if…

I know what’s going on!

When I don’t hear from someone working for me and they take 48 hours or longer to respond, quite simply I get pissed off.

And that’s what I’ve just allowed to happen to me.

Usually I’m pretty adept at spotting when this is going to happen before I ever get involved with hiring someone but this time I was in a hurry, I liked the portfolio and I needed to get someone to do the job.

Which has resulted in me being much further behind than if I’d simply listened to the alarm bells and delayed everything by a couple of weeks while finding the right person to hire.

I’ve got no complaints with the work but the freelancer we’re using has taken on a job he hasn’t got time to complete anyway, let alone within the timeframe we required, and we’re too far in to make a change now.

So I want to make sure that you don’t allow this to happen to you.

You should never hire a freelancer who you don’t have communication with first, by which I mean they ask you some questions. I’ll cover the blueprint we’ve developed to hiring a freelancer, through over $100,000 spent in hiring, in another article.

It’s this communication that will tell you whether they’re overworked. Start by asking them a simple question, one which only takes a minute to answer and see how quickly you get a reply. If you get a reply quickly then send another, slightly more complex, question to them as soon as possible and see how long the reply takes.

Then leave it 24 hours before sending a quick question again. Monitor how quickly they respond after you haven’t been in contact for a day, is it as fast?

Finally send a very complex question relating to your project which will really require them to delve into their knowledge, and possibly investigate something, to answer. If they don’t answer within 24 hours and don’t send an apology then it’s time to start being concerned. If they haven’t answered within 48 hours then you should be worried. If they haven’t answered within 72 hours then you shouldn’t even consider hiring them.

If they can’t respond to a complex question in a good timeframe then they either don’t have the skills you need or they have too much else going on and left your message 24 hours before looking at it, realised they needed to investigate it and left it until they had time which is usually another day or two. Then they investigate it and respond. If that’s happening then your project will take significantly longer than you want and will most likely end up with you either terminating the contract or them leaving because they can’t complete the project in your timeframe.

The problem is… you will already be very delayed by the time this happens!

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